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September 29, 2008

Debatable Winner

First things first, speaking from my own personal perspective, I'd have to say that Senator Obama handily won the first round of debates Friday night. My decision, obviously slanted due to personal preferences, is not just based on his issue which I tend to agree with, rather it was because Obama continued to showcase his tendencies to be a collected and intellectual candidate, traits that have been missing from the White House for the past 8 years. But that's not really what this blog is about, nor do I have the energy to divulge my own political views at this moment. I will admit McCain held his own, and despite however many times he insisted haphazardly that "Obama doesn't understand" or how confused he was about the Kissinger remarks (although Obama wasn't dead on either), it's a bit comforting knowing that there will be some type of improvement from the current situation. I realized this when McCain tweaked the infamous Bush line, "I looked into his eyes and what I saw was a good man" about Russia's Putin, with his own "I looked into his eyes and I saw three letters. K. G. B." Now, I admit I don't really care for my presidents making judgment calls about foreign policy based on guttural reactions, at least we won't have a president who makes these decisions based on whoever is the coolest to sit near at Olympic ceremonies. On to the articles

First, I read an editorial piece by the Star Tribune's David Lightman, and he certainly had a different opinion than me. He champions McCain's performance, oddly giving him credit for performing so well despite the uncertainty of his own decision to debate that very morning, almost acting like that attention craving primadonna display wasn't the most ludicrous move so far on this long winded and arduous campaign. Everything here is McCain, McCain, McCain, and while realize that it is an editorial, it still strikes me as lazy writing. Focus is on how McCain emerged like his old 2000 primary self, full of piss and vinegar and very little nonsense. The first page mentions Obama very infrequently, regulating his performance to the line "Obama was Obama and anyone who likes him was reminded why." That's all very well and good, but it lacks meat. The rest of the article is dictating the distinction in style between the performances and highlighting a few quotes. There's very little to get excited, or even heated about for an op-ed piece. It comes somewhere between an opinion and a news story and despite a little leaning towards McCain's wise-guy personna, there isn't even a strong opinion. Maybe that explains why there are only 3 comments on the article, which seems pretty bizarre considering attacking people based on political beliefs on message boards is the new bloodsport of my generation. I usually find the "It's boring!!!" claim to be the mark of someone with no attention span, but in all honestly, this piece was inert from the opening paragraph for anyone who actually watched the debate as it happened. Here is the link...

Needing some pep, I headed over to alternative media source, Slate, for another perspective on what can only be described at the presidential version of Monday Morning Quarterbacking. We must not confuse Slate with it's similar in content rival, Slant, because the article is full of it. Regardless, it is once again an opinion piece, (Slate isn't a hard news source) so it is a non-issue. The question is, can it hold me as a reader? The focus on this piece is on the remark Barack Obama (might I add, it's kind of sad to see spell check underline both parts of his name) made about Henry Kissinger made about talking with leaders of "enemy" countries. Barack suggested he was in favor of it, while McCain, obviously flustered to have a Republican icon used against him, insisted no such remarks existed. Bad idea really, as every news machine had the quote ready by debate's end. Turns out Obama was right, just a little incorrect about the position Kissinger thinks should be talking with Iran and the good ol' axis of evil (Feat. Russia). Secretary of State, not president is the correct answer. Still, Obama comes off looking well informed, while McCain looks a little confused in a not so adorable elderly grandfather type of way. The interesting part about this article however, is not so much the truth in the quote, but the wisdom in using Kissinger in a way that almost paints him as an advisory to Obama. This is after all, the same Kissinger who's laundry list of poor judgment regarding everything from human rights to foreign policy is about ten thousand miles long. It was good to see the website, which is unabashedly pro-Obama (I had an ad for his campaign sandwiched between paragraphs) refuse to accept every part of his rhetoric. So when all is said and done here, I've learned, I've got a different perspective, I've admittedly read an article that caters to my mindset, and I've also been left with a feeling that I haven't completely been swept up in that starry-eyed man-crushing wave of Obama love that everyone keeps making fun of me for. Read here:

Finally, I went on back to the Washington Post for my final perspective. I have to admit I was put off by their new found love of posting headlines that end up being slow loading videos that I can't very well watch when I'm sitting in a library or any other public place. Nor do I want to wait through flashy graphics when I'm just trying to inform myself. I swear, this is the worst trend in the media now. I know it isn't cool anymore, but man, I wish they'd keep the TV and internet separate for the most part. Anyways, when I actually found an article that used written words, I found a short little interesting one. The article called "The Art of Meaningless Spin" opens with quotes from both candidates about words that the other didn't use during the debate. Obama's mad McCain didn't ever say "working people" or "middle-class" and McCain raised his blood pressure over how Obama didn't refer to Iraq as a "victory." The author's point is made clear instantly: who the hell cares? Does the use of a few buzzwords undercut everything else the candidate's said elsewhere? It's obvious both men are well-read (a word I won't attribute to Sarah Palin, as much as it breaks me heart to say that about the first serious woman possibly headed to the White House since Geraldine Ferraro) and they both made their positions clear with or without using these select word. The point, one could argue, is that it shows it is supposed to illuminate the supposed disconnect between McCain and the average American and Obama's supposedly bad refusal to view war like a football game. Blah blah blah. More attacks. I'm sure you, like me, are sick of them (even though I swear I've still never seen an Obama ad on television. I know they're out there, as people are apparently mad about mudslinging, but the REALLY uninformed Minnesota voter/TV watcher might be thinking McCain is the only one actually running). The point the article tries to prove is that no one really cares, or at least they shouldn't. The messages behind the words in the debates should be our focus, not the actual word choices themselves. It's an interesting, relatively minor thought that reminds us what to focus on as voters and what not to. It's earnest and there is a little Pinocchio graphic that makes me smile, therefore, I am satisfied. I appreciate any coverage of politics that takes a different approach to presenting fact and opinion. For so much coverage, so much is the same most of the time. Read it here:

On an unrelated note to close: This morning on The View, conservative Barbie Elisabeth proved it is possible for her to get dumber. Obviously upset Whoopi was talking about how Sarah Palin said some dumb things with Katie Couric, she went on to say Couric must have a knack for making candidates say dumb things. She cites Biden saying that during the Depression, Roosevelt comforted Americans by talking to them through our TVs. I'm assuming he meant radios, as everyone knows Roosevelt's fireside chats did make Americans feel connected to the president more so than ever. I'm willing to call it an honest mistake. Elisabeth got really mad and snotty about this and said "First of all, there weren't TVs then and Roosevelt wasn't President during the depression!!!" And that's when I cried. I pray to God she meant when the stock market crashed he wasn't President. Really. There are rumors she's going to work for Fox News and she isn't even familiar with The New Deal???? Tears people. Tears.

September 22, 2008

Bulls and Bear-ly There Coverage

I've said before that reading about the stock market can be like reading in a foreign language. All this talk about sub-prime mortgages and hedge funds is making me realize how uninformed the majority of my generation is when it comes to the basics of money. In my opinion, money management classes should be required in all high schools nowadays, and considering it will be my generation that will inherent the financial woes of today, information is needed more than ever.

Regardless of whatever hyperbolic statements I make about my own financial ignorance, it was with great pleasure that I was able to read The Washington Post's coverage of the current economic crisis this morning. The Post's article from today (Monday) serves as a figurative sampler platter to the multitude of issues centered around the government bailout. In two brief pages, the article offered a great deal of analysis concerning the after-shocks of the bailout, including today's tumbling stocks and increased gas prices. Going deeper than that, the article fleshes out the details of the buyout and also considers how various plans will fare when they face senate and congressional hearings. I suppose what was the most enlightening about reading this was how well it blended reality with a tiny bit of optimism. A lot of what I've read so far on the crisis has either been soul-crushingly grim or else naively rah-rah. This individual article makes us aware that hope could emerge from this for long term investments, but also reminds us to not get swept up in any of the euphoric chatter that was everywhere last week after the DOW went up for a few days. Biases aren't easily spotted, as it does pay mind to mention both Democratic and Republican opinions and plans, while also getting sources whose credentials imply elevated knowledge. The Washington Post, which has long been my favorite of the big country-spanning newspapers, always has catered towards more erudite crowds, so it comes as no surprise that their coverage refuses to dumb down or politicize the subject at hand. You can view the article here...

The New York Time's coverage of the crisis is equally well-written and informative, however it does have the slight advantage of being a bit more wordy and unapproachable. I'm not one for simplifying news, but as I've made it aware, money is the Achilles heel of my news understanding. Reading statements like the following is enough to make me panic, sweat and have to re-read sentences like 40 times...
"The contingent shares would give taxpayers an equity stake in companies seeking help through the rescue program, potentially allowing the government not only to recoup however much of the $700 billion it spends on bad debt, but also to profit should the financial firms prosper in years ahead. The legislation would require the value of the contingent shares to equal the value of the assets purchased by the government."
Yikes. Still, despite being a tad overwhelming, The Times' coverage is as in-depth as The Post's, albeit a tad more straight-forward than the Post's which included a lot of different aspects of the story and a bit more analysis of the various plans. The Times does include a lot of quotes from those involved or with knowledge that makes the all around reading experience a bit more fluent and flowing. And despite however many Jayson Blairs you can throw at me, I still view the New York Times as a trusted source because my experience reading Vanity Fair has taught me to listen to those who think they're better than me. They're known for having a liberal bias, but I honestly didn't spot much of one here. The article was about criticism of the buy-out and it looked at it from both perspectives (assuming there are only two. We're pretty acclimated to a two-party system here). And since I don't quite get how to work this site yet, here is a link to the article that you'll have to copy and paste

Finally, like everyone who is looking for bias in a news article, I headed on over to Fox News' website in the hopes of finding something unapologetic in it's one sided brazenness. Despite my expectations, I was still beside myself when I saw the headline for an article on the very same subject..."Dems Tack on Extras." From that headline you really don't even know what the subject is about. All we get is that those no good Democrats are adding on costs like they (ed: we) always do. Early on the article was big on sensationalism, eager to shock with comparisons to The Great Depression that are all rooted back to liberal spending. There is a surprising amount of content for a news site that loves to work with nothing but sound bites, however, most of the content is rushed and spun in a way that doesn't reflect anything the other two sources had. Congress and Pelosi are painted as incompetent and harsh language like "demanded" is used with Democratic subjects. The bias is quite clear, here more evident than usual, and unsurprising considering the reputation the network has. The amount of coverage on this site is much less than the other two as well. Election coverage (much more flashy) gets the majority of the home page space. The other two site's main stories were all on the economic crises (about two-three stories each), but Fox was too busy giving space to an anti-Obama book called "The Audacity of Deceit." My opinion, however biased IT may be, is that Fox has less on the situation because the subject is much more complicated to comprehend than most news stories and its content doesn't translate to quick news blurbs as well as the latest presidential polls do.
Read it at this site:,2933,426160,00.html

Overall, I liked The Washington Post's coverage the best because it had the most information and presented it in a way which did not dumb down the issue.